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FEATURE STORYNovember 30, 2023

Planting Mangrove Forests Is Paying Off in Indonesia

Indonesia mangroves

Local residents plant mangroves at the government’s conservation site in the Teluk Naga area, the northern part of Jakarta. Photo: World Bank

Paying local residents to plant mangroves has raised incomes, increased fishery output, protected coastal areas, and contributed to efforts to mitigate climate change.

Mangroves play a critical role in supporting coastal livelihoods, protecting coasts from disasters, and mitigating global climate change. They can contribute to ending poverty and creating a livable planet. They are particularly important in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest and most diverse mangrove forests.

Recognizing the critical value and ecosystem functions of its mangrove ecosystems, the government of Indonesia has incentivized local communities to plant mangroves, and the World Bank Mangroves for Coastal Resilience program will support scaling this effort up. The program aims to create new sources of income from participants, empower women, increase the profits of fisheries, and protect coastal areas from flooding. Conservation of healthy mangroves ecosystems and replanting are critical if Indonesia is to realize its ambitious plans to convert forests and other types of land into carbon sinks by 2030. 

Indonesia is home to the largest and most diverse mangrove ecosystems in the world. They are critical because they support coastal livelihoods through fisheries (fish, crab, and other seafood); protect the country’s coasts from disasters; and store an estimated 3.14 billion tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by approximately 2.5 billion vehicles driven for one year, thereby playing a significant role in mitigating global climate change. Mangroves store considerably more carbon than other species of trees.

Mangroves near developed coastal areas are worth about $50,000 a hectare, thanks to the role they play in flood protection. Despite their value, these forests are regularly lost and converted to other uses, including aquaculture, agriculture, and infrastructure (including for housing and tourism). Their loss increases the risk of events such as flooding, erosion, and storms to people living in coastal areas. It also reduces the productivity of fisheries, reduces biodiversity (particularly species depending on mangroves as a habitat such as fish, crab, and other seafood), and increases greenhouse gas emissions.   In fact, based on a recently published study, Indonesia has the potential to develop mangrove based blue carbon projects with a net present value of $532 million, reducing up to 11 million tons of carbon dioxide  a year.

Indonesia mangroves

Mangroves, both newly planted and fully grown, in a mangrove park, north Jakarta. Photo: World Bank

Mangroves can be recovered, but the cost of doing so is high ($1,640–$3,900 per hectare in Indonesia), and efforts in other countries have often failed. About half of Indonesia’s mangroves – 1.82 million hectares – are “high quality” with no or minimal degradation. The remaining 1.58 million hectares of degraded mangroves (that is, mangroves partially converted to other land uses such as aquaculture ponds) provide an important opportunity for rehabilitation.

Indonesia has implemented various conservations efforts, including the Mangrove One Map, which maps the extent and quality of mangroves throughout the country. In 2021, the Environment and Forestry Ministry issued an official guideline on mangrove management that involves community participation.

These efforts could be complemented by strengthening the overarching policy on mangrove management and incorporating mangrove zoning into spatial planning, including for coastal infrastructure. The government could also expand the scope of its moratorium on issuing licenses to convert primary forest and peatlands to include all types of mangroves.

Nini has been planting mangroves at government’s site since 2021, which provides her with a steady income. Photo: Ebe/World Bank

Community participation is critical in mangroves' conservation and restoration, and since 2021 the Indonesian government has been paying people to grow mangroves. The program has changed the lives of many locals.

“The payment is enough to support my family,” said one grower, Mrs. Nini. “I can buy rice and groceries. I am grateful for this job. My friend and I plant mangroves together, and we have fun doing it. This program helps our community.”

Mangroves can also protect our fish farm from flooding during high tides. It will stop our fish from escaping during a flood.
David, Indonesia farmer
Fish and crab farmer

Mangrove planting has increased fish farm yields and reduced costs, increasing fishers’ profits. One producer, Mr. David, reported reducing daily fish feed from 10 kilos to 7 (because mangroves provide natural food for fish) and cutting harvest time from six months to just four. These forests have also caused crab production to soar.

“Crabs need mangrove trees to nest and breed,” David explained. Before the new forests were planted, he caught two crabs a day “on a good day.” Since their planting, he has been catching five to ten a day.

“Mangroves can also protect our fish farm from flooding during high tides,” he said. “It will stop our fish from escaping during a flood.” The extra income allows farmers to save money they can use for major purchases, like motorcycles.

Indonesia mangroves

Cami showed how to make toffee candy from mangrove fruits. Photo: Muhammad Fadli/World Bank.

The planting of mangroves has also empowered many women, some of whom have independent income streams for the very first time.

“Selling mangrove toffee product has become my primary source of income,” said Mrs. Cami, one new entrepreneur. “I never imagined this could happen to me.”

Nationally and globally, conserving and replanting are critical if Indonesia is to realize its ambitious plans to convert forests and other types of land into carbon sinks by 2030. Three types of actions can increase the probability of success:

  • Anchor efforts in integrated landscape management by conserving and restoring mangroves while strengthening the resilience of coastal communities. This approach requires cross-sectoral coordination with national; subnational; and local institutions (government, NGOs, and local communities) to plan, execute, and evaluate mangrove management.
  • Go beyond the planting of seedlings to include hydrological works that reestablish tidal flows and allow for mangrove seeds from nearby mangrove forests to disperse. The condition of the areas to be restored; the quality of the seedlings; medium-term management (tending, protection); and midcourse corrections can increase success rates.
  • Provide local stakeholders with concrete benefits in the short and medium term for participating in restoration and caring for restored areas. Payment for labor-intensive work and other incentives mechanisms, including payments for blue carbon, can secure the support of local communities and governments. 

The Mangroves for Coastal Resilience project, financed by the World Bank and launched in 2022, supports the government’s ambitious goals in restoring 600,000 ha of mangroves by 2024 – the world’s largest mangrove restoration ambition to date. The project aims to develop an integrated model of mangrove conservation and restoration and improving the livelihoods of coastal communities that can be replicated throughout the country. The government is also implementing an overarching policy for mangrove management, strengthening cross-sectoral coordination at the national and local levels, and exploring potential blue carbon payments for mangroves.


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